Lisa Vogl has long believed there is a market for modesty.
In 2011, Vogl began a career as a fashion photographer working with, as she describes it, “modest” fashion brands, bloggers, models and magazines around the world. Four years later, she and Alaa Ammuss launched Verona Collection in Dallas, Texas, in 2015 with only $7,000, four hijabs, two skirts and a dress. The women were motivated by faith and fashion. Vogl says they had difficulty finding demure, stylish and affordable clothing that would meet their religious covering needs.
Their small launch in Dallas saw great success, and by the end of 2015, they expanded to a distribution center in London to serve European customers. In early 2016, they opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Orlando, Florida.
Last spring, they were accepted to The Workshop at Macy’s, a weeklong business development program for minority and women-owned businesses. The Workshop focuses on giving small retail owners the opportunity to learn from experts in the field and to access tools to help them grow their business. At the end of the annual program, Vogl and Ammuss presented their brand to the Macy’s buying team at a trunk show in Herald Square.
Macy’s was sold — and is now selling their products.
BROADENING THE NICHE
The February launch of Verona Collection made Macy’s the first major department store in the United States to sell hijabs and to market a clothing line geared toward Muslims.
Verona Collection is available on macys.com and consists of 19 pieces, including varying hijabs or headscarves, tops, button-leg pants, maxi dresses, jumpsuits and bell-sleeved ankle-length cardigans in a variety of colors and fabrics. Items range in size from XS to 3XL, depending on the product, and cost from $12.95 to $84.95.
“Participants of The Workshop at Macy’s are carefully chosen based on their business strategy and growth potential, among other criteria,” says Shawn Outler, Macy’s executive vice president of licensed businesses, food services and multicultural initiatives.
More than just a business, Verona Collection has a social mission behind it as well, which is to give women the confidence to be proud of who they are and how they choose to dress, says Vogl, 35. Many pieces in the collection, such as the maxi cardigan and maxi dress, are appropriate for women regardless of religious affiliation, Vogl says.
According to a 2014 study released by the American Muslim Consumer Consortium, about 9 million of the 2 billion Muslims worldwide are in North America. The consortium’s founder put Muslim spending power in the U.S. at about $100 billion.
A handful of international retailers from casual brands such as DKNY, Uniqlo and H & M to luxury labels such as Dolce & Gabanna and Oscar de la Renta have made clothing with Muslims in mind in recent years. In 2017, Nike released a Pro hijab, a pull-on head-covering for Muslim athletes, which is also available on macys.com — and American Eagle offered a custom limited-edition denim hijab last July worn in ads by Muslim model Halima Aden. The denim hijab sold out in a week.
Vogl, who lives in Orlando, says she hopes people realize that full-coverage fashion doesn’t have to come at the expense of style and that more retailers — large and small — continue to court women who want to dress modestly.
“Beyond the sheer demand of the Muslim fashion market,” Vogl says, “it shows inclusivity and provides their customers a large range of choices.”